Popular Woodworking 2001-02 № 120, страница 72
Out of the Woodwork
Economic research proves that all tools—from a screwdriver to a drill press—cost the same.
Of all of the words in the English language, there are few that are as open to interpretation as the word "economy." Countless institutes of higher learning offer undergraduate programs focused on "Economics." They mold young minds to consider every issue in terms of cost/benefit relationships and collective value. After four years, if the student's mind has become sufficiently moldy, they are invited to pursue a graduate degree in the field.
Now, you might ask what Economics has to do with woodworking. I propose that outside of the world of International Banking and High Finance, there is no other group more financially polarized than woodworkers. We have our own little micro-economic universe where we vacillate somewhere between two economic extremes. A less sensitive observer might call these boundaries "The Cheap" and "The Exorbitant." However, in the interest of unity, we'll call them the "Tool for a Day" and the "Tool for a Lifetime" philosophies.
Advocates of the "Tool for a Day" approach will argue that the quality of the tool is secondary to the skill of the craftsman. After all, an artisan of sufficient talent should have no problem building a Chippendale Highboy using nothing more than popsicle sticks and a steak knife.
The "Tool for a Lifetime" crowd takes a different view of hardware purchases, living and dying by the mantra, "You get what you pay for!" Any tool that has the honor of entering their shop must not only be of the very highest quality, but also have an unquestionable pedigree, the proper paint scheme and a degree from Stanford.
As I said before, most of us drift between these two extremes — our buying habits depending on the reason for the purchase. When buying a tool for a job we love, we'll slide toward the exorbitant end
of the scale, perhaps buying the "ultimate jigsaw," knowing it will spend years as a faithful servant. On the other hand, when it comes to scraping the peeling paint from the front door, we're more likely to use the license plate off the family station wagon before coughing up the 75 cents necessary to buy a scraper. It is the nature of man.
Now, as my wife, Helga, will tell you (and anyone else within a five-mile radius), I am a GIANT in the field of spending money at the hardware store. And by combining my vast personal experience with extensive research (which included looking up the word "economy" in the dictionary), I believe I have unraveled the mysteries surrounding the economics of tool buying. I have chosen to give it the modest title: The Grand Unification Theory of Hardware Acquisition.
It is my supposition that, in the end, all tools cost the same price, and that price is $1,500. Now, like gravity and the notion that the world is round, I realize that this idea is ahead of its time and it will be met with resistance. Allow me to assure you that I arrived at this conclusion in a sober state, and I can offer convincing evidence of its veracity.
First, consider the table saw — the king of shop tools. For about $1,500 a woodworker can buy a Delta Unisaw. Our intrepid buyer can rest assured this tool will last him the rest of his natural life — regardless of any advances in medical technology. If, on the other hand, he purchases a $500 contractor's saw, he should expect to replace it two more times during his life. Correspondingly, those buyers whose wives will only allow them to invest in a $150 table
saw are destined to buy 10 of them before they punch their timecards for the last time.
I know what you're thinking, "Sure, your theory works fine for the big stationary equipment, but there's no way anyone is going to spend $1,500 on a hammer." Au contraire, that's the beauty of the system. The smaller the tool, the more likely you are to misplace it — forcing you to buy another. The Department of Defense has recognized this principle for years. Consequently, it has taken a proactive stance by paying the entire cost of hammers upfront. Coincidence? I don't think so.
Of course, as with all advances in human enlightenment, there is a dark side.
I arrived home the other night to find Helga sitting comfortably in front of a shiny new sewing machine. Being an expert in assessing the value of ANYTHING based on its number of buttons, I realized this "tool" was roughly the same price as a fully equipped sport/utility vehicle. Nonetheless, being a glutton for punishment, I had to ask....
She just smiled and said, "Based on the conventional wisdom, it's safe to assume your granddaughter will be using THIS to make HER granddaughter's wedding dress...." It was clear her logic would be indisputable. So I poured a drink and retired for the evening, comfortable in the knowledge that my philosophy was right. I was broke, but I was right. PW
Walt Akers can be found continuing his economic research at the hardware store in Seaford, Virginia.
72 Popular Woodworking February 2001